YEREVAN—The Yerevan Municipal Council passed a decision this week to name a park after the First Armenian Republic’s Honorary Consul to Japan Diana Apcar.
The October 8 decision, which entered into force the next day, comes days before the 160th anniversary of Apcar’s birth.
The park, which is located at the intersection of Sarian, Puzant, Karen Demirchyan and Mashtots streets, is perched in a central area of Yerevan.
The resolution was proposed by councilmembers Gayaneh Melkom Melkomian and Grigor Yeritsyan.
“It is beyond doubt that she has her worthwhile place among the leading figures of the First Armenian Republic,” said Melkom Melkomian as she introduced the bill during the meeting of the council, pointing to the symbolism of the park being near Aram Street.
In an interview with the Armenian Weekly, Melkom Melkomian noted how Apcar “was truly a remarkable politician from the time of our First Republic, the first ever woman in the world to be appointed as honorary consul, and her literary and humanitarian work cannot be overstated. She dedicated her entire life’s work to her motherland and her people, single-handedly saving hundreds of refugees fleeing from the Armenian Genocide, but had until now been somehow overlooked by her very own people.”
“We specifically chose this central park, because there are only a handful of small streets and statues in Yerevan dedicated to women. Thus, this decision was also significant as a step towards recognizing and honoring prominent women figures throughout our history, who have been left in the shadows for far too long,” Melkom Melkomian concluded.
“I am ecstatic! It is so well-deserved,” said Mimi Malayan, Apcar’s great-granddaughter. “Diana is such a significant part of Armenian history. I’m so happy that her contribution to Armenia and the Armenian people is being recognized.”
Although there are a few streets in Yerevan named after prominent Armenian women, including a small street named after writer Zabel Yessayan, Apcar is the first female historical figure after whom a park is named in the Armenian capital.
“Today, Diana Apcar finally comes to Yerevan, the capital she was appointed to represent in Japan,” said historian Khatchig Mouradian, a professor at Columbia University, commenting on the news. “This extraordinary woman lived for Armenia and its people, was appointed the First Armenian Republic’s honorary consul without having set foot in the country, and was buried thousands of miles away in Yokohama in 1937, decades before Armenia regained its independence.”
“I hope Apcar’s arrival ushers in an era where more streets and parks are named after women leaders, scientists and artists,” Mouradian added.
Born on October 17, 1859, in Rangoon, India, Diana Aghabeg was a leading figure of Armenian history as an author, advocate for Armenian rights, diplomat and humanitarian. Her books include Susan, a novel, and Home Stories of the War, a short-story collection published in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War and dedicated to the Japanese people.
Diana married Apcar Michael Apcar in 1889, and moved to Japan a year later. They had five children, two of whom died. Apcar Michael Apcar himself died after six years of marriage.
Diana took on the responsibility of caring for her children and running her husband’s businesses, all the while engaging in correspondence with hundreds of world leaders and intellectuals, raising awareness and calling for action to stop the massacres committed against her people in the Ottoman Empire.
“There is no one in the Far East who has worked as you have in the interests of our newly established republic and towards alleviating the troubles and sufferings of our fellow countrymen,” wrote Hamo Ohanjanyan, the third Prime Minister of the First Armenian Republic, to Diana Apcar on July 22, 1920. “Therefore, I have appointed you honorary Consul of Armenia in Japan, and I hope that you will not refuse to accept this onerous office for the benefit of our newly-established Republic.”
Diana indeed accepted the appointment, but before Japan did, the Republic of Armenia fell to the Soviet Red Army and lost its independence later that year.
Last year, Malayan released her documentary titled “The Stateless Diplomat,” which reinvigorated interest in her great-grandmother.
In a recent article for the Armenian Weekly, Malayan wrote, “Diana Agabeg Apcar’s accomplishments exceeded all reasonable expectations for one lifetime, and yet she did this as a single woman in a far-off land over 100 years ago. Her story had to be preserved and held-up as a model—an inspiration of faith and commitment to her country and her people.”
On October 8, Armenia took another step towards honoring the legacy of Apcar and her lifelong commitment.